NIGHT SCHOOL: Charting Better Ways to DieProfile

by Ivor Williams

24 October 2014
Architectural Association, London

 

Being and Dying was established to answer the question, why isn’t everyone having a good death?

 

As Victor Papanek famously noted, “the only thing important about design is how it relates to people.” It is a notion that is fundamental to our approach. To design anything worthwhile, we have to respond to the needs of people. Simply put, people need better ways to die.

 

When using design to improve such large systemic problems, we quickly run into issues of accessibility and time. Right nowwho can we create a better experience for?  When we talk about improving people’s health and wellbeing, who are they? What do they think is a good way to live and die?

 

Adapting the preferable futures cone model to dying, we can provide a clean and succinct trajectory to a ‘good death’. However, we as a society all exist at different points along the axis. Those who are poor or uneducated in reality, live far further down the spectrum of a preferable death, than well-educated, rich people. When contemplating ways of living and dying, we must acknowledge these differences, and seek to understand the complexities involved in improving the way we die.

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Madeleine Albright once remarked, “We are taking 21st century challenges, evaluating them with 20th century ideas and responding with 19th century tools.” In the 21st century, we advance towards becoming a trans-human species; with bio-engineering, gene therapy and nanotechnology all heralding a new future for ways of living. Yet we are still dealing with death in an unsatisfactory 20th century fashion. In the UK, only 3% of people want to die in a hospital, yet 58% will. As a problem of space and habitation, this alone requires urgent attention.

What can we do to improve the spaces in which we die? What is involved when we try and simply let people die where they want? What is reasonable and preferable for everyone? What role does architecture and design have in providing systems, programs and experiences that can allow us to align our hopes for a good death, with the reality of one?

 

For more information:

Ivor Williams of research group Being and Dying will lead the Night School workshop Open Plan Dying on 31st October at 7pm.
This event is open to all, for booking and full details please visit the Night School website

 

Being and Dying researches and investigates current approaches to life and death, through experimental design. Including; broader issues around health and the environment, preventative and holistic healthcare, to challenge the notion of death in stark opposition to life. The studio researches how current and future technology can connect with traditional and emerging health practices to create genuinely holistic products, services and experiences. Being and Dying is led by Ivor Williams, who is also visiting professor at Università Iuav di Venezia, and visiting lecturer at the Glasgow School of Art.